West Virginia Association of Counties

Handbook for Elected Officials for County Government

Click here to go directly to the Job Descriptions

This handbook of county government elective offices by the Virginia Association of Counties will be updated and amended as necessary, On behalf of the Officers, Board of Directors, members and staff of the West Virginia Association of Counties, I hope you find the booklet helpful. Please call our office if you need further information or additional copies.

Patricia L Hamilton Executive Director

West Virginia Association of Counties

2211 Washington Street, East

Charleston, West Virginia 25311

Phone: 304-346-0591 Fax: 304-346-0592



County government as we know it today in West Virginia originated with the passage of the Judicial Amendment of 1880. The Amendment provided for a three-member, elective body; removed most of the county commissioners’ judicial functions except limited ones as in settlement of accounts and appointment of guardians and committees; and retained the county court (now commission) with central authority in fiscal matters as its primary function.

West Virginia’s counties do not possess inherent rights of self-government. They are under the State’s complete control as its creation; and their authority to perform even local functions is spelled out in the Constitution or by legislative enactments. In addition to members of the county commission, the elective officials are sheriff, assessor, prosecuting attorney, surveyor, county clerk and circuit clerk.

By Richard Shelton, Founder West Virginia Association of Counties

The West Virginia Association of Counties makes this "job description" booklet, a guide to the elective county offices, available. The Association was established in 1960 to bring about the rebirth of effective county government. Our objectives have remained constant since its inception:

  • To sustain cooperation among the counties and their officers in studying local problems and applying knowledge to obtain effective methods of local government.
  • To investigate and recommend improvements of more efficient ways of administering and operating county government.
  • To secure harmony of action among the counties that affect their rights and liabilities.
  • To initiate legal action in the name of a member county in order to secure a determination relative to the counties’ rights and liabilities under any constitutional provision or statute; to appear as a friend of the court in any court proceedings in matters where the county’s rights and liabilities are affected and to appoint or employ counsel for that purpose.
  • To receive financial assistance from endowments or from other legitimate sources, to participate in any federal program that may be used in furtherance of the. Association’s purposes and to receive, expend, if necessary, put up matching funds for federal programs.
  • To be alert to prevent alienation of fundamental county rights and the removing of such rights, as are inherent with the county government, to invest same in other branches of government.
  • To cooperate with State and federal government officials in matters leading to the betterment of conditions in the counties.
  • To cooperate with the National Association of Counties and with more public spirited organizations and with other units of government, or governmental organizations in the matter of research in the bettering of local administration of county government.
  • To foster and encourage the purposes of each of the member groups of this Association. To employ counsel, as needed, for the purpose of effecting any of the objects of this Association.
  • To do any and all other things necessary, proper or fitting to carry out the objectives herein expressed, or for the benefit of the counties of this State.

Click on one of the following to go directly to that job description


Job Descriptions For Elected County Officials



RESIDENCE: In open magisterial district

The county commission is the governing body of a county. Fifty-four counties elect three-member commissions while Jefferson County has a five-member commission. Commissioners serve in part-time positions with salaries ranging from $15,000-28,000.

The Constitution provides certain powers to the county commission, but these powers are limited to "the manner prescribed by law." This means that the county commissions’ powers must be expressly conferred by the Constitution or by acts of the Legislature. With respect to the powers of a county commission, the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals has stated that "a county court (now county commission) possesses only such powers as are expressly conferred upon it by constitutional or statutory provisions, together with such powers as are reasonably and necessarily implied in the full and proper exercise of powers expressly conferred upon it." The West Virginia Constitution, Section 11, Article 9, specifically grants the following powers and duties to county commissions:

  1. The custody, through their clerks, of all deeds and other papers presented for record in their counties, with responsibility for their preservation or disposal as may be prescribed by law.

  2. The administration of the internal police and fiscal affairs of their counties, with authority to lay county levies, under regulations as may be prescribed by law.

  3. Serve as the judge of the election, qualification and return of their own members, and of all county and district officers, subject to regulations as may be prescribed by law.

Other duties and responsibilities are specified in chapter 7 of the West Virginia Code, particularly in §7-1-3. These include

    • Preparation and adoption of budget for all county offices, except judicial

    • Jurisdiction in all matters of probate

    • Appoint guardians for minor children; receive court settlements generally

    • Own and maintain county property

    • Sit as Board of Canvassers

    • Lay and disburse county levies base (I on assessed property values

    • Sit as Board of Review and Equalization in February hear appeals on property values for assessment purposes

    • Appoint Fiduciary Commissioners to oversee and certain estates as required

    • Appoint members of certain county boards, authorities and public service districts

    • Adopt ordinances and orders in areas of jurisdiction as prescribed by law

    • Approve purchase orders and payment vouchers for elected county offices, except

County commissions are required by section 9, article 9 of the Constitution to hold four regular sessions (meetings) each. These meetings must be held at the courthouse. Special sessions may be held throughout the year if called by the president of the Commission with the concurrence of at least one other commissioner. The number of meetings held varies from county to county, with some commissions meeting once month and others several times a month.

Notice of all meetings must be given and meetings are public, as required by the open meetings law, West Virginia Code §6-9A-3. Executive, or private, sessions may be held as authorized by law. Two commissioners in attendance at a meeting establish a quorum. At the first session of each year, the commissioners choose one of their members to serve as president.




Each county elects a county clerk (except Hardy County which has a joint county/circuit clerk) whose responsibilities include the management of records of the county commission and certain election duties. The primary responsibilities center around two basic functions: 1) to act as clerk (fiscal officer) of the county commission, and 2) to act as the receiver of fees charged for the instruments filed and recorded within the county. To carry out the numerous duties, the clerk of the county commission may select deputies and other employees with the advice and consent of the county commission. The budget for the operation of the county clerk’s office as a whole is determined by the county commission. The salary range for county clerks is from $32,000-42,000 and is required to be full-time in Class I-V counties. Their duties include:

    • Issuance of marriage licenses, birth and death certificates

    • Record births, marriages and deaths in the county

    • Chief Voter Registration Official for the county; register qualified voters

    • Maintain custody and integrity of the county’s voting machines, ballot boxes and other election supplies

    • Conduct training sessions for poll clerks and other election officials prior to their service

    • Serve as the recorder of all documents

    • Keep records of County Commission transactions

    • Keep minutes of all County Commission meetings

    • Probate wills Oversee guardianship appointments




The Clerk of the Circuit Court is elected in each county to carry out administrative functions and to act as record-keeper for circuit court actions in that county. The office of the clerk is authorized by Article 8, Section 9 of the West Virginia Constitution. The Circuit Clerk is an officer within the judicial system and plays a pivotal role in that system. The West Virginia Constitution establishes a hierarchy of administrative control that gives overall authority for the entire judicial system to the Supreme Court of Appeals. Local administrative authority lies in the circuit court, including the office of circuit clerk with regard to the clerk’s judicial functions but the clerk has autonomy to establish procedures and policies necessary to carry out statutory responsibilities. The Circuit Clerk also serves as an election officer. The salary range is $32,000-42,000 and is required to be full-time in Class I-V counties. Examples of duties and responsibilities include:

    • Issue writs

    • Issue final process to enforce and execute judgments

    • Appoint a guardian ad litem where required

    • Respond to other requests that do not require a court order

    • Responsible for the administration and management of the petit and grand jury systems in the county

    • Create the master list of prospective jurors; select panels for attendance qualify and summon jurors; provide juror orientation; and monitor jurors’ attendance and mileage

    • Serve as fee officer of the court

    • Serve as election officer prepare ballot, conduct absentee voting and other election-related duties

    • Report various statistics to other governmental agencies

    • Appoint deputy clerks subject to the review of the court and/or county commission


TERM: 4 years


Training required after taking office

The assessor of every county is elected every four years. The position is required to be full-time in all but Class X counties. The base salary range is $29,000 - 34,000, with additional fixed compensation of $6500-15,000 for duties specified in state law and additional pay up to 10% of salary for additional duties relating to agriculture. Assessors annually appraise or place a true and actual value on all real and personal property for tax purposes and from that determine the assessed value for the calculation of taxes. They are responsible for listing all property in the county, both real estate and personal property. The assessor then develops the Land Property Book containing the names of all owners of real estate and the Personal Property Book with names of all persons owning personal property for each tax district. These books are used by the County Commission, the County Board of Education and by municipalities within the county for the levying and collection of taxes. The books are open for public inspection and are kept in the County Clerk’s office. Other responsibilities include:

    • List all properties exempt from taxation, such as that owned by federal, state, county or local governments; property used for public or charitable purpose, or property used for schools and hospitals.

    • Collect county and local dog taxes

    • Determine eligibility of property owners for the Homestead Exemption

    • Maintain tax maps and property records and make them available for public use

    • Assist state tax commissioner with annual review of public service corporations and

Estimating Real Estate Tax:

Appraised Value X 60% = Assessed Value

Assessed Value X Levy Rate = TAX

Property Tax Classification

CLASS 1- All tangible personal property employed exclusively in farming, livestock

CLASS 2- All property owned, used and occupied by owner, exclusively for residential purposes, and farms used and occupied by their owners or bona fide tenants

CLASS 3 & 4- All real and personal property exclusive of Classes 1 & 2, situated outside a municipality (Class 3) or within a municipality (Class 4), including property occupied by renters


Each county elects a surveyor every four years, but the office carries no official duties and no salary. It is an office required by the West Virginia Constitution and the county must provide office space. Many counties do not have a surveyor. In counties with surveyors, they are compensated for the work performed such as providing documents for property tax sales or assisting in property disputes and boundary locations.




The Sheriff of the county serves as its chief law enforcement officer, charged with the responsibility of policing the county and keeping the peace, including the power to make arrests. A sheriff may not serve more than two consecutive terms. It is required to be a full-time position in all counties except Class X. In counties that operate county jails, the Sheriff has responsibility for administration of the jail and custody of the’ inmates. In addition to duties related to law enforcement, the Sheriff also serves as the Treasurer of the county and collects all taxes levied by the county. To assist the Sheriff in the performance of his/her duties, law enforcement deputies, tax deputies and legal process deputies may be hired. Correctional -‘officers may also be hired in those counties which have a county jail. The salary range is $29,000 - 34,000 with additional compensation for tax collections not to exceed $15,000. The sheriff’s duties include:

    • Serve and execute all returns, notices and processes issued by the courts which must be served in the county

    • Act as bailiff in court proceedings

    • Enforce court orders

    • Administer transportation of prisoners, mental patients and extraditions

    • Administer the financial matters of adults who are unable to do so for themselves

    • Issue licenses to citizens who apply for a concealed weapons permit

    • Collect all state, county, municipal and school taxes; disburse money to appropriate agencies; maintain all tax records

    • Enforce payment of delinquent taxes


TERM: Four Years


Must be admitted to practice law by date term begins.

Every four years, all fifty-five counties elect a prosecuting attorney. In Class I through V counties, the position is full-time with outside employment prohibited. The current salary range is $35,000 -76,000. The prosecuting attorney is the chief legal officer of the county. They have areas of responsibility in both criminal and civil cases. In criminal cases, the prosecuting attorney assists in the investigation of all crimes and other law violations in the county. In civil cases, the prosecuting attorney acts as legal advisor to the County Commission and other county officials. They may also be called upon to assist the state Attorney General in state legal actions within the county. The prosecuting attorney’s office must be kept open during elections and be available to advise election officials or answer questions from the public. Other duties and responsibilities include:

    • The prosecution of all crimes, both misdemeanors and felonies, within the county

    • Request warrants to be issued for persons charged with felonies

    • Try cases before magistrate and circuit judges

    • Present information to the Grand Jury for indictment of persons in connection with criminal activity

    • Represent the Department of Health & Human Resources in child abuse and neglect cases

    • Represent the State in juvenile delinquency cases

    • Appoint and supervise assistant prosecuting attorneys and support staff

    • Represent all elected county officials and county agencies

    • Prepare contracts and other documents for the county

    • File civil suits for county agencies and defend county agencies against civil suits

    • Represent applicants for involuntary commitment of patients to mental institutions

    • Serve as special prosecutors in other counties